Facing Gethsemane

Once you make your choice to follow Christ, you will go through your own Gethsemane – times of extreme anguish. There is no escape. Agony is inevitable. This is not fiction. This is the truth. Even if you don’t go to Gethsemane, it will come to you. Everything you come across will test you as Jesus himself was tested. The way of the Cross is not easy. Romans 8:17 clearly says that we become heirs of God by partaking in the suffering of Jesus. This does not mean suffering is the only sign. It means that very difficult times lie ahead as you grow older in age and in the Lord. But know that, that is what Christ had already been through, so that you can talk to him and rely on him for wisdom to help you sail through difficult times in life. If we look at the Old Covenant only priests had direct access to God. Anointing of God rested on the kings and the prophets. Common people had no access whatsoever. Now, anyone who is in the New Covenant has direct access to God through Christ. You and God can talk to each other. You are in Christ’s hands – the very hands that were nailed because of you. There is no short cut. Christ was faithful to the Father’s plan and because of his own faithfulness he was afflicted. God is faithful and He will afflict us because He is faithful to us. Faithfulness afflicts and when afflictions come, we usually raise doubts. Swiss physician Paul Tournier, acclaimed as 20th Century’s most famous Christian physician, says: “Where there is no longer any opportunity for doubt, there is no longer any opportunity for faith either.” So, faith and doubt go together.   
R&B artist Chris Brown sings his song ‘Forever’: “It’s you and me moving at the speed of light into eternity. Tonight is the night to join me in the middle of ecstasy.”  At the 2010 BET Awards, the same person broke down in tears falling on his knees as he sang a tribute song to Michael Jackson. He couldn’t contain himself. He found it hard to ‘move at the speed of light’ when he realized that Michael Jackson was gone. There will be times when you will ‘sweat drops of blood’ in extreme anguish as Jesus himself had.  2 Corinthians 1:5 states: “For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds by Christ.” What does that mean? It simply means that the richest times are the hardest times. God of the universe is powerful enough to still give us the opportunity in a fallen world to make a change as we kneel down in our own Gethsemane. In a fast and materialistic world like today where kneeling down to pray seems absurd, so often we don’t see this God’s grand desire for bringing a change on this earth through us. Or do we see? God never changes. We are the ones who need to change. If we look carefully, the Old Testament and the New Testament change their views about affliction. In the Old Testament, God gave clear-cut reasons why affliction took place. In the New Testament, God took affliction upon Himself on the Cross and then we are asked to look to the Cross for all matters related to affliction. Father God seemed so far away for Jesus in Gethsemane and yet it was the closest moment for the Father and the Son. God will seem the farthest in your Gethsemane to which James responds: “…Count it all joy when you face diverse trials” (James 1:2). You will never know how close you are to God if you don’t go through your Gethsemane. In Gethsemane you realise that what God told John in Revelation 21:4 is real: “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes;  and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain:  for the former things are passed away.” Gethsemane is a place where God is extracting your past away – a very painful process –and dealing with you in person and pouring into you grace and strength to sustain yourself for you have been faithful to Him. Gethsemane is a test of your faithfulness to Him.
Consider Apostle Paul who was travelling from Cyprus to Athens, the capital of Greek philosophy, when he came across an altar with the inscription: “TO THE UNKNOWN GOD” (Acts 17:23). God seems unknowable to us just like the Greek philosophers thought. But the joy we have is not in what we have done or will do but our joy is in Christ. Being in Christ means being sure that no wave of condemnation can reach you just like nothing could reach Noah shut in by the Lord in the ark. Are you shut in by the Lord in His Blood? Noah did not run away from the responsibility that God placed in him. Jesus did not run away either. We tend to hide and give up because the clouds seem too dark, the mountains seem too treacherous, the waters seem too deep, the thunders seem too scary, the nights seem too long and lonely, the days seem too windy and dry and we wish that all our burdens would roll away into nothingness. It makes sense to write an inscription for ourselves: “TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.” But Gethsemane is not a place of condemnation but judgement and justification. There we judge ourselves in the light of God and God justifies us. If Jesus had not given His life on the Cross nobody would have. If Paul had not written the epistles nobody would have written them and we would not be reading them today. If Shakespeare had not written his books no one would have written them. But if Columbus had not discovered America, someone would have discovered it. If Sir Edmund Hillary had not climbed the Mount Everest, someone else would have climbed it.
God has a purpose for you in Gethsemane. You must come out of Gethsemane with that purpose. Jesus told his Father: “Not my will but Your will be done.” We go to Gethsemane with our will and come out with His will.